Unite has yesterday (December 22) welcomed the Scottish government’s ‘sensible’ decision to retain the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) following a prolonged campaign to protect the minimum standards it affords to rural workers across the country.
A periodic review set by the Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP resurrected fears for the board’s future and the potential impact of downgrading or abolishing a model of best practice for rural employment relations.
Unite urged the Scottish government to reject the National Farmers Union (NFU) call for the board to be scrapped to avoid a damaging decline across the rural economy already blighted by low-pay and precarious employment practices – a fact acknowledged in the Scottish government’s Poverty Impact Assessment (PIA) data which accompanied today’s announcement.
“The Scottish government has made the sensible choice today and as long-standing advocates for the SAWB we are relieved for Scotland’s rural workforce,” said Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty.
“While our agricultural sector contributes significantly to our economy it is also known for low pay, precarious employment practices and hazardous working conditions – the SAWB is a bulwark against the type of exploitations that could prevail in its absence,” he added.
“What we cannot do now is rest on our laurels because as the PIA shows there are significant economic, employment and social barriers we need to tackle across rural Scotland.
“We need to strengthen standards within the board and in particular the pursuit of a living wage rate of pay for workers, so we can begin building sustainable growth in local economies across rural Scotland,” Rafferty went on to say.
The SAWB has established minimum levels for the wages, terms and conditions of agricultural workers since 1949 and its scope covers upwards of 20,000 agricultural- related jobs across the country.